8 reasons patrol is a powerful presence

Patrol officers are the most indispensable tool in the law enforcement toolbox

The most important element of local policing is the uniformed patrol unit. Let’s pay homage by identifying eight ways patrol officers positively impact the USA as they patrol the streets, alleys, highways, parks and rural roads of this great nation.

1. The Tap-the-brakes effect

This term comes from the fact that whenever a marked unit suddenly appears ahead of a line of cars you will notice that even the drivers in those cars not speeding will instinctively tap their brakes. Those same instincts kick in anytime someone is engaged in, or about to engage in illegal activity and they see a police officer. These criminals will tend to tap the brakes on their criminal behavior.

As a patrol officer, you are appreciated by more people than you can imagine.
As a patrol officer, you are appreciated by more people than you can imagine. (Photo/Dan Marcou)

It is not possible to count the number of times a mugging was thwarted, a bully left his victim alone, or the armed robber or rapist moved on because thugs observed a marked patrol car rolling through the area, but it happens all the time.

2. Patrol Facilitates Rapid Response Time

Officers on patrol are in a very good position mentally and physically to respond quickly, and slide into a position of advantage at any call. They are like the football running back who is set in motion before the snap.

Start a stopwatch as you leave the break room, or report room in your police department and let it run until you can get into your squad and out onto the street. Now, stop the watch and check the time. Consider adding that time to your response time to an active shooter, an armed robbery, or a domestic disturbance call, and imagine in that time how much more damage could be done.

3. The Right Place, right Time Phenomenon

Great beat cops on the proverbial prowl come to understand the who, what, when, where, how and even the why of the beat. There is a random aspect to patrol, but for the experienced beat cop, effective patrol is also the act of conscious and subconscious risk analysis and situational assessment.

Experienced officers find themselves in the right place at the right time. They will spot the robbery, the beating, the reckless/impaired driving, or the burglary in progress. In doing so, they will often catch the miscreants, preventing property damage, injury and death. Trouble doesn’t surprise them, they surprise trouble. Their list of criminals arrested, victims rescued and even babies delivered is ever-growing. Eventually, countless citizens are left wondering, “What would have happened if that officer wouldn’t have been in the right place at the right time…for me?”

4. making a big difference in a little way

The patrol officer often finds him or herself in a position to make a big difference in many little ways. Have you ever wondered how many career-making job interviews, first dates with spouses to be, college entrance exams, weddings, children’s sporting events and concerts were reached on time because of the simple act of a patrol officer stopping to assist a motorist?

There are also those priceless moments when patrol officers have bought shoes for the homeless, formula for a young mother and returned a child’s stolen bike. Others have stopped to shoot a free throw or two with some kids playing in a school lot or buy a cup of lemonade from a kid's stand. Because of contacts like these, a forever connection has been made that will pay off in the future.

5. The Bingo Arrest!

Patrol officers have one of the most powerful computers in the world, the alert police brain. Great patrol officers have their heads on a swivel, analyzing the people and behaviors they are passing on the street. Often, they recognize on sight the stolen car given out at line-up, an in-progress criminal activity, a wanted suspect, or the revoked driver. By knowing the people, places and things on their beat, the alert officer will regularly be given the gift of the “bingo arrest,” which is probable cause, on sight. As police trainer Aaron Tomlinson said, the great patrol officer always must be “Bingo ready!”

6. Master of the Investigative Stop

Training and repeated experiences enable an officer to sort out all of the movements, signs, signals and activities to identify the sudden appearance of reasonable suspicion to justify legal investigative (Terry) stops. These invaluable 5- to 15-minute investigations are often followed by the arrest of a variety of criminals.

7. Safer Roads

Simply stated, studies show that patrol officers' traffic enforcement activity can and does make our roads safer.

8. Livable Neighborhoods thanks to the Power of Patrol Presence

The difference between a corner occupied by pedestrians waiting to safely cross the street, or an armed drug dealer waiting to make a sale while intimidating everyone he meets is often a dedicated and active patrol presence. For proof of this, one only needs to look to the many once beautiful neighborhoods in the nation that are awash with drugs, crime and even raw sewage after community leaders chose to deliberately handcuff their local police. Active police on patrol do make a difference in their communities.


As a patrol officer, you are appreciated by more people than you can imagine. However, some will always fear and hate the uniform you wear and would harm those you are sworn to protect. As a patrol officer, you are the most indispensable tool in the law enforcement toolbox. As an experienced member of the uniform patrol, you can make yourself even more effective by committing to be, not just being present on patrol, but to be a presence on patrol. For your sake and your community’s sake, please never forget that.

Now, go out and do some good!

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